How do I... Add image thumbnails to Microsoft Windows Explorer?

By Mark Kaelin

XP Folder Options - View

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When you are dealing with a folder in Microsoft Windows containing numerous images, it is often very helpful to see thumbnail representations of those images in the Windows Explorer display. This built-in functionality is available in both Windows XP and Windows Vista, but how you turn the feature off and on is slightly different for each version. This TechRepublic How do I... explains how to turn on the thumbnail feature and how to change the layout of Windows Explorer to accommodate the thumbnail images when they are active.

One caveat for the resource sensitive users out there -- turning on the thumbnail feature will increase the amount of resources being used by the operating system. Those little thumbnails take up space on the hard drive and in memory when they are being displayed. Depending on your system, the available resources, and the number of images involved, you can quickly bog down your PC if you are not careful. This is why, many users will be interested in this tip for the opposite reason -- they want to know how to turn thumbnail creation off in Windows. Either way, this How do I... will help.

Windows XP
Open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder of images for which you would like to see thumbnails. On the Windows Explorer menu click Tools | Folder Options to get to the control panel. Click the View tab.


Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.